Last week I was buying some gaskets in my local hardware store when I noticed that I was the only person wearing a mask except for one of the clerks at the registers – and she had it below her nose. The last time I was there, just about everybody was masked.

We’ve gotten blase about the whole pandemic thing in New Hampshire and for good reason: We’re in pretty good shape. The amount of COVID-19 circulating freely is as low as it was at this point a year ago, so low that it’s easy to ignore.

But there are hints that our free-and-easy summer may be ending sooner than we hoped.

New cases of COVID-19 began rising in New Hampshire last week, although not by much. More alarmingly, new cases are rising in every single state, sometimes sharply. A few places, notably Los Angeles County (which has seven times the population of New Hampshire) have gone back to indoor mask mandates.

According to the CDC, the month of June saw 337 Americans die from COVID-19 on an average every day – more than deaths from gunshot, car crashes and flu, combined.

It’s a reminder that the pandemic is not anywhere near over in America. And in much of the rest of the world, as international news depressingly tells us, COVID-19 is a raging pandemic that kills thousands and hospitalizes millions and is helping to undermine entire economies.

This is, of course, due mostly to the Delta variant.

We’ve long known that the Delta breed, to use my canine metaphor, is more contagious than the original virus. Now that it’s widespread, we’ve found that, happily, it does not seem to be more likely to cause serious illness. That’s good news – but even so, if we have more cases, we’re going to eventually see more people in the hospital and more deaths.

The solution, of course, is to boost our natural immune system to make it harder for any variant of the COVID-19 virus to take root in our lungs.

I have done that through eating right, exercising and all that stuff, but mostly through vaccination. If more people followed suit we wouldn’t have to be worrying so much.

Don’t you wish they would? I sure do.

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How are we doing on vaccinations? Not good enough and not getting better.

For all practical purposes, nobody is getting vaccinated anymore in New Hampshire.

The first two weeks of July saw just 2,000 people added to the tally of those who had gotten their first shot and just 2,500 added to the “fully vaccinated” list maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

It looks like we’re going to be stuck at 60% of the population getting vaccinated, although that could rise if a vaccine is developed for children under 12. Either way it’s nowhere near any sort of “herd immunity,” especially not with a more-contagious variant on the loose.

What’s the trend on the spread and impact of the disease? Good but there are hints of less good.

Our two-week average of new cases is still low – 25 per day as of July 16, exactly what it was on July 16 of 2020 – but last week saw more than 40 new cases of COVID-19 announced on three days running. That hasn’t happened since mid-June.

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